The more exposure middle school students have to anti-smoking ads, the more likely they are to smoke, according to a new University of Georgia study.
Hye-Jin Paek, an assistant professor at UGA, found that many anti-smoking ad campaigns have the opposite effect on teenagers, backfiring because they actually encourage the rebellious nature of youth.
“They don’t want to hear what they should do or not do,” Paek said. Instead, she said, ads should focus on convincing teens their friends are heeding the anti-smoking warning because peer pressure has the most direct effect.
Paek and co-author Albert Gunther from the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined surveys from 1,700 middle school students about their exposure to anti-smoking ads and their intention to smoke. The study will be published in the August issue of the journal “Communication Research.”
The study is the latest in a string of research showing that anti-smoking campaigns often have ad little to no impact on teens. In 2002, a study commissioned by an anti-smoking foundation found tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris’ youth anti-smoking campaign was making students more likely to smoke.
Paek said the data showed middle school students are more like to be influenced by the perception of what their friends are doing, and that anti-smoking campaigns should be more focused on peer relations.
“Rather than saying, ‘don’t smoke,’ it is better to say, “your friends are listening to this message and not smoking,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter what their peers are actually doing.”
Hmm…obviously an ongoing plot by Big Tobacco to advertise to kids. That court settlement is looking better and better everyday.